I was able to talk to Alicia Wong, a senior in the World Bachelor in Business program about her opportunity to study, work and live at schools and companies across the world, from Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Milan, to NYC, and the Bay Area. She shares her unique perspective on her time in these cities, her favorite moments, work culture comparisons, most challenging... and what's next!

Alicia, to begin, give me a brief overview of yourself: where you’re from, what the World Bachelor in Business is and what you’re focusing on in your studies…

My parents are from China and Malaysia, but I grew up in the Bay Area. I’d always travelled when I was younger, and I moved to LA when I was 18 to enroll in the World Bachelor in Business program.

The WBB program is a triple degree program that allows students to study at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, the HK University of Science and Technology in Hong Kong, and Bocconi University in Milan. Students fulfill general business requirements such as economics, business law, accounting, marketing, and finance, as well as global business practices, local history, and other general education.

Some of my favorite classes have been business strategy, ethics, and negotiations. I’ve also declared a minor in Mobile Application Development for my USC degree.

What has been the most rewarding part about spending a year in a new location over the course of your studies? And the most challenging?

Being able to connect with a new culture, meet new people, and learn new things is incredibly rewarding. Of course, doing so has also been very challenging. There were so many times when I was frustrated by a language barrier or local bureaucracy, got lost, or was just homesick.

Dragon's Back hike in Hong Kong.

Most surprising thing about….

  • LA: It takes 30 minutes to travel both 5 miles and 20 miles. I don’t know why or how this is true.

  • Hong Kong: The escalators and elevators move so quickly!

  • Milan: The city is surprisingly small. Milan is arranged in a circle, and opposite ends of the city (from Vigentino to Isola areas) are just 6 km (3.7 miles) away. My friend and I were training for a half marathon while living in Milan, and our training routes would go all the way across the city and back.

  • San Francisco: Amount of wind. I think San Francisco is the true windy city.

  • NYC: Since space lower Manhattan is tight, trash bags get put out on the sidewalk every night. Trucks are out around 2am, and the garbage man manually picks up every bag and throws it into the truck. Once I was in an Uber that got stuck behind a garbage truck for twenty minutes on a one-lane road.

Courtyard entrance to her best friend's apartment in Milan.

What you liked the best about living in….

  • LA: Variety. If you’re willing to drive a little, you can find almost anything.

  • Hong Kong: It was so busy. It wasn’t often that someone was standing around for no reason, everyone was always on their way to something.

  • Milan: Definitely the food. Access to fresh mozzarella, homemade pasta and local French and Italian wines totally spoiled me.

  • Bay: It really was great being close to home, since I was able to see my family and old friends a lot more.

  • NYC: I definitely had the most random celebrity sightings in New York, like Jonah Hill and Solange.

Windy day at Victoria Peak, HK with friend and classmate, Andrea.

What you liked least about living in….

  • LA: Traffic, and the polluted air that is a result of traffic.

  • Hong Kong: The humidity. My hair and skin were both a mess for the first couple of months.

  • Milan: I’d never lived somewhere with actual winter, and so getting used to the cold was new to me. I hated that I would have to wear a ton of layers, just to walk around outside and sweat under all the jackets.

  • Bay: Nothing was within walkable distance, a car is mandatory for living in the Bay.

  • NYC: It took me a while to catch on to the subway system. For the first month, I’d consistently be on the wrong direction platform, and for a lot of stations, you have to leave the station, go above ground, cross the street, and then go back down on the other side to reach the opposite platform. Delays and weekend/weekday schedule changes always caught me off guard too.

Running across the sand dunes in the Sahara with my friends Robert and Pheodora.

What were you doing in each location, how would you describe the work culture each location….

  • In LA, NYC, and Bay, I was working at AT&T within different divisions...

  • LA: Data science. Laid back but very friendly, huge push at my office to eat lunch together every day.

  • Hong Kong: I interned at a startup in HK (instead of a Fortune 10 company). Work was pretty busy and tasks changed every day. Because we were a satellite office (HQ being in Singapore), most communication was done through email or Slack.

  • Bay Area: Consulting. I was working remotely, and went into the office once a week. Because our company was pushing very heavily into a more flexible and remote workforce, we didn’t have desks. If I were going into the office, I would have to reserve a table online before going in.

  • NYC: This was the most business-formal office. I was also in a more client-facing role, business to business sales. Work starts and ends a little later, from 9 AM to 6 PM. We also went to visit our clients at their offices a few times a month.

Edinburgh's Christmas market at 5am , after arriving on the overnight bus from London.

Favorite neighborhoods/restaurants:

  • LA: Koreatown, Old Pasadena or Culver City were my favorites. Some restaurants I frequented were Beverly Soon Tofu, Sunlife Organics, and Sushi Gen.

  • Hong Kong: Kennedy Town, Sheung Wan and Tsim Sha Tsui were the places I spent the most time. I loved Sweetheart Garden Restaurant, Tim Ho Wan, and Cong Sao Star Dessert.

  • Milan: Brera and Porta Ticinese neighborhoods. And for restaurants, Sanya AYCE, Princi, Upcycle Milan Bike Cafe, and Osteria dell’oca Giuliva.

  • Bay: Fremont (my hometown) would have to be my favorite place. Some favorite restaurants are Pepper Lunch, Shanghai Noodle House. The SF hoods I like are Pacific Heights and Nob Hill.

  • NYC: I definitely spent a lot of time in the Lower East Village and ate at BK Jani in Brooklyn, Poke Chan, and 212 Hisae’s.

View of Hong Kong at dusk.

Your favorite moments in each place:

  • LA: Racing golf carts across campus at midnight.

  • Hong Kong: Hiking, swimming and cliff diving in Sai Kung in spring.

  • Milan: Starting boxing and Crossfit with two of my close friends, and travelling around Europe.

  • San Francisco: Catching up with old friends.

  • NYC: Long nights and weekends spent out with friends, meeting new people and trying new things!

Graduation is on the horizon, what’s next? A new city?

I don’t have any plans set in stone yet. I love technology and business, and love working with people. That leaves me a lot of room to find a job that I like. In terms of location, I would love to go to a new city. I’ve loved everywhere I’ve lived previously too, and wouldn’t mind returning to any location either. It’s all possible!

As someone who is just entering the work field, how do you think the World Bachelor of Business has prepared you in regards to skillset/outlook that perhaps friends you have from growing up wouldn’t necessarily have gained in the past 4 years?

Many others my age have never had the opportunity to leave their state or their hometown, and I’m very grateful for having the opportunity to do so. I think that the constant change has helped me become a very flexible and adaptable person. Quick learning and a good attitude are necessary, and I’m really happy that I have been able to learn and practice these skills throughout the past few years. It definitely wasn’t easy, but it was a valuable experience.

Alicia Wong, student of the World Bachelor of Business, in Milan, Italy.